COLUMBIA -- When South Carolina ace Michael Roth slipped to the 31st round of this week's draft, many wondered why. Then came a report that Roth, 12-3 with a miniscule 1.10 ERA, was actually sending major league teams to voicemail. He corroborated that Friday.
"I did ignore a couple of calls," he said, laughing and looking at his coach, Ray Tanner, who was seated next to him. "Not that I didn't want to get drafted or anything like that. The teams that I'd talked to, I felt like I'd told them all I needed to tell them the last couple of weeks. I think if they wanted me, they needed to go ahead and draft me."
Roth was eventually selected by the Cleveland Indians. When he heard the news, he was bummed. Not because he doesn't like the Indians, but due to a poor practice session.
"Draft day, I wasn't too caught up in everything," he said. "It was an honor to be drafted, a dream come true that I have an opportunity to play pro baseball, but it wasn't what I was focusing on this week."
Roth will start tonight, opposite UConn ace Matt Barnes (11-4, 1.62 ERA). Roth has a 3.8 GPA in international business and plans to study in Spain after the season is over. He said last month he planned to return to USC unless he received an overwhelming offer.
Barnes and cleanup hitter George Springer were taken Monday in the first round of the draft, with the 11th and 19th overall picks. Thing is, both were involved in the game that decided the Clemson regional.
Barnes actually informed Springer when he was picked, just before he went to the plate for an at-bat.
"That was something pretty weird," said Springer, who has 12 home runs and 77 RBIs this year. "You work for it your whole life, but at that time, I was more focused on how I could help us win."
Barnes was informed by UConn teammates who were sitting in the stands because of the NCAA tourney roster limitations.
USC's Adam Matthews struggled at the plate as a designated hitter in the regional opener, his first start since mid-April because of a hamstring injury. But Tanner said he has had a good week of practice and could be a factor this weekend, especially considering UConn's second and third starters are left-handed.
"I like where he is," Tanner said of the right-handed-hitting Matthews. "He just hasn't had enough reps. … I'd like to cut him loose, but it's a little more difficult than just doing that right now. The good news is, he's available and you could see him."
Left-hander Steven Neff was the DH most of last weekend and hit his fifth home run of the season. He will likely hit ninth tonight against Barnes.
Tanner said a decision had not been made whether Colby Holmes or Forrest Koumas would pitch Sunday's second game. Holmes started the second game of the regional, but the right-handers have flip-flopped several times during the second half of the season.
UConn also was not set on its second starter. Redshirt senior Greg Nappo is the logical choice, but he threw about 130 pitches in two starts in the regional, including a workmanlike effort Monday. Freshman Brian Ward is the other option.
Tanner said it had not been decided whether Brady Thomas or Robert Beary would catch tonight. Thomas would likely DH if his sore foot isn't healthy enough for him to catch. Tanner said Beary's arm is fresher, since he hasn't caught as much -- and UConn does have 127 stolen bases.
Springer, Barnes and injured USC outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. played together last summer on Team USA. Springer said he was disappointed he couldn't play against Bradley.